Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ivey’s In My Kitchen –Brussels Sprouts-It’s All About The Sides


    Brussels Sprouts 

I know, I know, you think they’re yucky, but you’ve never tried them my way.  So sit back, relax, and open your mind to the experience.  Allow me to convert you.

I know what your thinking, that Brussels Sprouts are gross.  You think that they smell nasty, have a funky texture and are the product of childhood food-related torture.  Well, so did I.  I don’t know about your Mother, but mine loved vegetables, all of them.  However, she showed her love by cooking all veggies until they were brown and mushy.  I was 14 before I knew a pea was supposed to be green and didn’t smell like the inside of a foot locker. 

I learned later – as I thought my Mom’s cooking had improved – that it was my actually my Dad who liked his veggies mushy and overcooked (ingrained by his mother).   As I got older my Mothers usually steamed or roasted our veggies while leaving Dad’s in longer to practically disintegrate.  I don’t want to even think of the phone call I’m gonna have to field from my parents after this article comes out.  J

Anyway, as a child, I remember Brussels Sprouts as mushy and smelly and I was happy that as an adult, I never had to deal with them again.

However, in my twenties one “morning after” Allison and I were strolling through the Green Market on our way home to pass out when I was drawn to some long, green, bumpy sticks.  They looked like little trees with golf balls running up the sides I knew they had to be food, they weren’t planted in anything, they were being sold by a produce vendor, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were.  I had never seen anything like it before.  My natural food curiosity drew me over and then Allison started looking at it with wonder.  So we asked some questions.  Turns out, that’s how Brussels Sprouts grow.  Tall on a singular stalk that is harvested in the Fall.  They look like little balls of cabbage – and what do you know, they’re actually green!

I don’t know what possessed me, I was probably still drunk from the night before, but I agreed to buy them, take them back to Ally’s place and cook ‘em up.  I loved experimenting with new foods and the produce vendor told us how to clean ‘em, cook ‘em and serve ‘em up.  Allison was just learning about cooking and I loved cooking for her and teaching her.  I still remember the two of us sitting there chatting away, clipping off the little sprouts and peeling them.  We thought they were so cute.  We had no idea they were going to be so delicious. 

That day changed how I looked at Brussels Sprouts forever.  They were no longer the stinky little cabbages of my youth, they were vibrant and sharp and delicious and SO EASY TO MAKE!!!!  They were unique, you didn’t see them on the side of every plate in NY for sure.  Turning people back on to Brussels Sprouts as adults is something I’m proud of.  And by the way, it just tickles the $#!t outta me that my 6 year old begs for them.

It’s been a long time since that wander thru Union Square with Ally and there have been many incarnations of this recipe – all are good.  It is my goal to re-introduce you to this under-rated, inexpensive, nutritious and delicious vegetable.  I want to make you comfortable.  I want to make the two of you good friends and then I want you to eat him.

Brussels Sprouts are available most of the year, however, they are in season in the Fall.  October/November is when you can find them on the stalks.  Look for them at your local farm market and the week prior to Thanksgiving, you will even see them in the A&P.   Buying them on the stalk may be the best experience; however, it’s not the most realistic.  In real life, they are most easily found in a medium paper cup with plastic wrap on top.  They are also available frozen, but I’ll get to those later.  For now, we’re dealing strictly with fresh. 

You are looking for sprouts that look like little baby cabbages.  They should be green and firm and heavy for their size.  Bad Brussels Sprouts are yellowish with brown spots, loose space between their leaves and are very lightweight. If you are buying on the stalk, look at the cut end.  If it’s firm and a little moist, we’re in business.  The benefit of buying on the stalk is timing.  They will stay fresher longer and you can remove what you need as you need it.  But like I said, that’s not the most common option.  The most common option has a good shelf life in the fridge.  Keep Brussels Sprouts in the store bought container in the crisper, away from moisture.  Brussels Sprouts can be that back-up veggie you pull out at the last minute when you forgot you had to make dinner.

While I always prefer washing food first, it’s a waste here.  What you need is a small sharp knife, a place for the scraps and a Glad Freezer bag.  Oh, Magic Oil, you need Magic Oil too – but we’ll get to that later as well.  The best way to prep Brussels Sprouts is to trim the bottom off and remove the outer layer of leaves.  Sometimes there are buggies.  So especially if you are new to this recipe, check them while you are peeling.  Hey, they’re natural.

As you trim the bottom, the outer leaves will fall off easily.  If there is a bruise or a mark you can cut it out.  When you are finished, you should have a big bag of tight little bright green balls.  I find that the original container from the supermarket acts as a perfect scrapings can.

Preheat your oven to 420˚

Drizzle 2 Tbs. Magic Oil (it’s ok to guess here) into the zip bag and securely seal the top.  Shake the bag to insure that all the Brussels Sprouts get coated by the oil.  You will notice them getting a little darker green, a little more translucent, that’s good.  That’s exactly what you want.  It is also good if you can let them marinate for a little while.  I usually use this recipe for my whip it out at the last minute routine, but when I have the forethought to plan ahead, I let them sit in the Magic Oil all day before roasting them.  Believe me, that’s all they need.

Place the Brussels Sprouts into a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with a little Kosher Salt if you like salt. 

Roast at 420˚ for 20 minutes.  Then check.  You may flip them if you like.  If you’re brave and have a good oven mitt, just give the pan a little shake and you’ll see them rock back and forth.  Give them approx 8 minutes more.  You want a little darker than golden brown on one side, after that, doneness depends on you.  I recommend that you cut the little guy in half and taste ‘em.  Oh wait, blow on them first, so they don’t scorch your mouth.

These little guys are the perfect side dish and need very little adornment.

However, if you wanted a little adornment……..

There are two schools of thought on Brussels Sprouts.  Some believe they should be cooked whole, as is and some believe the correct method is to cut them in half.  Here’s the skinny.  If you are lazy like me, don’t cut them.  It will only create a lot of little shavings and more work.  But if you want to spice things up a little bit – or should I say flavor things up a bit, cutting them in half is the way to go.  All those leaves allow for flavors to just seep right in.  Pick your poison.  I like butter.  I also like truffle butter.  As a matter of fact, when I was in Vegas last year, we had the most amazing Brussels Sprouts (now how often do you hear that?????) They were off the chain delicious.  They had been roasted cut side down on a baking sheet and when they were finished, they were turned cut side up and dotted with little pats of truffle butter which quickly melted on top.  Holy shmoly, they were good.  My friend Kyra and I were enjoying them so much off the roasted vegetable plate that we ordered a side of only Brussels Sprouts.  I felt compelled to come home and learn to make them the same way. 

The delicious effect can be achieved with truffle oil drizzled on top after cooking.  Resist the urge to cook them with truffle oil.  Very often, when you apply high heat to truffle oil or truffle butter, the flavor evaporates.  Think of truffle oil as a condiment.  Magic Oil is a flavored cooking oil.

Another adornment perfectly suited for Brussels Sprouts is cheese.  Any kind you like.  I like shaved Parmesan cheese.  Same as the oil though, I put it on after it comes out of the oven.  Brussels Sprouts will hold their heat.  Maybe it’s all those layers?

That smell you remember from childhood comes from 2 things; over cooking and storage after cooking.  If the smell bothers you – like it does me – then don’t keep the leftovers.  If you want to keep the leftovers, use a tight container and re-heat in the microwave.




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